Independent administration can make the "probate" process easier.
Ideally, your loved one made this designation in his or her will. If the person did not leave a will, you are out of luck. If there is a will but the deceased did not specify an independent administration, you will have to convince a probate judge AND all the heirs to grant these powers.
What is independent administration?
Texas probate law provides two options for settling estates. In a dependent administration, the appointed representative of the estate (administrator) must report regularly to the court and get approval from the judge for matters such as selling property. This makes the process more tedious and time-consuming. In an independent administration, the administrator is given more freedom to settle the estate, with minimal oversight and no pre-approval required for transactions.
Independent administration involves a presumption that the appointee can be trusted with the duties. The will must expressly indicate an independent administration. If the will does not specifically say so, you can petition to be appointed. However, the court can only grant independent powers of administration with the unanimous consent of all beneficiaries. All it takes is one contrarian relative (or a skeptical judge).
Do I need a lawyer if I am the independent administrator?
Technically no, but it is highly advisable to consult legal counsel. Because you are on your own, with access to assets and accounts of the estate, you must tread carefully. It is important to do things "by the book" to avoid legal missteps or accusations of fraud of self-serving actions. An attorney who understands Texas estate law can steer you clear of trouble and save you much time and stress. If you live in another state, assistance from a local attorney can also cut down on the number of trips to Texas.
The experienced estate administration lawyers of McCullough & McCullough can help if you have been put in charge of a loved one's estate in South Texas. We can also help you draft or update your own will to provide for an independent administration, to make things easier for your heirs when the time comes. Our family firm has served Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley for three generations. Call 956-320-1320.